Every album has a key lyric that sums up its entire theme in a few short words. In our new, recurring feature Top Line, The FADER highlights those lines that matter.
The first Future lyric to really leave an imprint on me wasn’t one of his early step-and-repeat anthems, but a warm bar tucked in the pre-chorus of his 2012 breakout “Turn on the Lights”: I wanna tell the world about you just so they can get jealous. It’s the kind of gummy, sincere line you slur in the back of a cab or pass on a note from the back of the class, and one of the earliest hints at Future’s potential beyond the trapaholic fight songs that first brought him infamy. For me, that line was an outlier that dragged his catalogue toward a more modest, complex center.
So it was rich to hear Future bring this sentiment to his sophomore album with “I Won,” his latest celebration of the trophy wife he’d always been looking for. I just wanna take you out and show you off, Future croons at the top of the track, cementing his favored courtship-as-spectacle theme: in Future’s worldview, love isn’t affirmed from behind closed doors, but brightly and loudly, in front of vying eyes. Whether he’s in hot pursuit or she’s been firmly caught, the object of Future’s affection is repeatedly measured by her ability to swell his presence in public.
This peacocking is Honest’s central concept: the strongest tracks are victory lap music. His ideas are aggressively outward-facing: “I’m hotter than y’all, I’m just honest,” “I ball more than y’all, how can I not?” “I move more dope than y’all, but my recipe can’t be televised.” “Sh!t,” which is probably still my favorite cut, is essentially just Future scolding a room of inferiors for all their shortcomings, finger-in-the-face, Jon Taffer-style. When held against Andre 3000’s highly personal cameo on “Benz Friendz”—White button downs and Emory scrubs, had to write her birthday down because my memory sucks… 1994 Toyota Land Cruiser because that bitch ain’t never broke down on me, why would I do that to her?—the closest we get to anything autobiographical from Future is I wish you could feel all my momma’s pain and My momma ain’t raise no hoe (x4), which, while probably sincere, doesn’t weave together an engaging longplay. Put another way: we’ll all be blasting tracks off Honest well into the summer, but probably not in tracklist order, nor all in one sitting.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. A seamless, introspective album has never been what we’ve asked of Future Hendrix. Like his lady, his bombastic sound is meant to be taken out and shown off—in car speakers, at BBQs, from VIP booths, loud and bright, feeding off the adoration and envy of whoever’s closest. Which may be what makes it so instinctively relatable: if we’re being honest, what good is the win without the big-ass trophy?
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Below, watch Future perform “Turn on the Lights” for vitaminwater #uncapped.